Jonathan Schottler Is Obsessed
Take Jonathan Schottler at his word, and he spends 420 hours a year on a bicycle analyzing the bicycle he's on. "Sixty percent of the time I'm on the bike, I'm thinking about the product itself: Why is the bike behaving how it's behaving? What can I do to make it more enjoyable to ride? How can it be improved? What's the next leap of technology?" He averages 700 hours a year riding.
Schottler, a design engineer for Cannondale's road and cyclocross teams, is obsessed with bikes, fitness and health. "If my brain is still focused on designing and I'm out riding bikes — I can't complain," he said. "It's a passion."
A heartland kid from Kansas City, Kansas, Schottler lost his father to a heart attack at age 11. That loss locked in his commitment to exercise and health. He began riding bicycles his sophomore year of college at the University of Missouri, and raced mountain bikes, competed in a few crits, a TT here and there, and dabbled in cyclocross. He woke up at 5:00AM to train, went to class, worked at a bike shop in the afternoons, then rode to the library to study. He raced on weekends; repeated the routine on weekdays. He trained on gravel roads, to escape both cars and civilization. After completing his bachelors and masters in mechanical engineering, he landed a job at his product sponsor, Cannondale.
After a year working in the Wilton, CT, headquarters, Cannondale transferred Schottler to its Freiburg, Germany research and development office. For the past four years, he has lived and worked in the greatest cycling city in Germany. Situated in the southwest corner of the country, near the Switzerland border, Freiburg sits at 1,000 feet elevation and is circled by peaks that climb to 4,000 feet. "You can leave from the office on a lunch ride, go to the top of the second tallest mountain, then ride back down and be back at your desk in less than an hour and a half," Schottler said. There, immersed in a German city with two dozen Cannondale employees and his dog, Schottler designs bikes, rides bikes, thinks about bikes, races bikes, problem solves bike problems, and then rides his bike some more.
His latest object of riding contemplation, studied over 1,500 miles and three prototypes, is the new Synapse. With larger tire clearances, a more relaxed geometry and fender compatibility (key during the long Freiburg winters, which punish riders with near-freezing temperatures and consistent rain), Schottler has saddled the endurance frame for the majority of his recent training rides — of which there are many.
He recently completed the 206 mile long Dirty Kanza gravel race on his home turf of Kansas (his 5th Kanza; he finished 25th at 11 hours, 57 minutes, 39 seconds), and last fall he bikepacked the Torino-Nice Rally, a 700 km unsupported ride between Italy and France. He's also eying a second ride of the Bike Transalp race and his first Crocodile Trophy in Australia.
In the 280 riding hours a year when he's not thinking about the machine propelling him forward, Schottler attempts to turn off his brain. To do so requires one logical prerequisite: the bike must be quite. "A good bike is something that makes you happy, something that works well, and a bike that's quiet," he said. The bike must work. It must be properly tuned. The engineering and the components and the fit must be dialed. The bike will then, on the best days, disappear, letting the miles slip away along with the algorithms and CAD drawings and clay modeling. "It's one less thing that you have stuck in your brain," Schottler noted. And on this quiet bike, like in his early years riding gravel roads around Columbus, MO, he can play in the German mountains, clearheaded and free.